When it comes to keeping kids’ mouths healthy, good habits – like brushing twice a day, flossing and visiting the dentist regularly – are a must. In addition to good home habits, a few in-office preventive dental steps can also help keep kids’ teeth in tip-top shape.
While brushing and flossing remove plaque from the smooth surfaces of teeth, it can be difficult to get certain hard-to-reach spots. Your child’s dentist can apply sealants to act as a barrier against plaque and acids in these vulnerable areas on the tooth’s chewing surface. It’s a simple and painless procedure. The material can be painted on each tooth in just a few minutes, but can last for years.
Sealants are most effective when applied to permanent molar teeth right after they come in. Kids’ first permanent molars erupt around age 6 and the second permanent molars around age 12. Pre-molars are also prime candidates for sealants.
Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by making teeth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque, bacteria and sugars in the mouth. Kids can get fluoride through tap water, fluoride toothpaste, mouth rinse and treatments applied by the dentist.
Professional fluoride treatments are applied quickly and easily as a gel, foam or varnish. The fluoride used for these treatments is higher strength than over-the-counter or prescription mouthwashes or toothpastes, but only a small amount is used. It hardens quickly and is brushed off later.
X-rays are important tools to help the dentist keep an eye on what’s happening under the surface in little mouths. X-rays are generally safe for children, but dentists should take as few as possible to get the information they need. For children with a high risk of tooth decay, the American Dental Association and U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommend X-ray examinations every six to 12 months. Children with a low risk of tooth decay require X-rays less frequently, every 12 to 24 months. You’ll want to consult the dentist to determine how often your child needs X-rays.
Visit with your dentist about these treatments for your child. Good oral health habits, along with recommended preventive dental procedures like these, will help keep children’s mouths healthy.